I TOLD YOU NOT TO BE TOO SMUG ABOUT SANTORUM'S RISE
Public Policy Polling goes through the history of the not-Romneys and finds that Santorum is the first one to do better than Romney against Obama:
PPP's newest national poll finds Romney trailing Obama by 7 points at 49-42, while Santorum trails by only 5 points at 49-44.
... Over the previous 6 months when Romney first trailed Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain, then Newt Gingrich in our national polling he still did on average 6 points better than them in our general election tests. Santorum's the first insurgent to challenge Romney on that front as well....
Santorum's net favorability is 21 points better than Romney's. Santorum's at -7 (39/46), while Romney is at -28 (29/57). That's mostly because Republicans like Santorum a lot better (+40 at 62/22 to Romney's +2 at 43/41). But Santorum also does a good deal better with independents, coming in at -6 (40/46) to Romney's -23 (32/55). In the head to heads Obama leads Romney by 9 with independents, but has only a 4 point advantage on Santorum with that group.
How is this possible? Well, I hate the scolding tone of this Jonathan Chait post, but I essentially agree with what he's saying:
Santorum has attracted a terrible reputation among the overclass. He is defined by his crude, bigoted social conservatism, which colors the broader perception of him as an extremist. This in turn leeches out into a sense, often reflected in news coverage, which likewise reflects the social biases of the overclass, that Santorum is a fringe candidate who would repel swing voters.
To put that in a somewhat more charitable way, I think a lot of committed liberals and urban sophisticates (I place myself in both categories) really do care more than the rest of the public about zealously protecting the right to have gay sex, non-marital sex, non-procreative sex, and only wanted children after any sex. Since these issues matter a lot to us, and Rick Santorum is not only on the wrong side on all of them but is so proudly and defiantly, he seems ickier to us than he does, perhaps, than he does to the rest of the public.
Now, I think plenty of swing voters and heartlanders will stand with us on some or all of these things when push comes to shove; even at the Applebee's salad bar they hated Dan Quayle's attempt to slut-shame single mothers a generation ago, and more and more heartlanders are cool with the fact that Ellen DeGeneres is gay. But if these aren't make-or-break issues for moderate Middle Americans, which I think is the case, then they're unlikely to have paid as much attention to Santorum over the years as we have, so right now he doesn't look so bad to them. I don't know if that will continue to be true if he's the nominee and they learn more about him, but for now we shouldn't assume that our view of him is shared by everyone who's not a rightist.
(X-posted at Balloon Juice as part of this post.)